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26 March 2011



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Disaster Victim Identification
International Co-operation DVI Guide Bibliography
Appendices


A

League of Nations: International Regulations for Body Transport 1937

B

Council of Europe: Agreement on the Transfer of Corpses 1973

C

Pan American & World Health Organisations: International Transportation of HumanRemains 1966

D Interpol Resolution on Disaster Victim Identification
E Draft Interpol Guidelines

 

Appendix A
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INTERNATIONAL REGULATIONS FOR BODY TRANSPORT
League of Nations

International Arrangement concerning the conveyance of corpses
Signed at Berlin, February 10th, 1937

Desirous of avoiding the difficulties resulting from differences in the regulations concerning the conveyance of corpses, and considering the convenience of laying down uniform regulations in the matter, the undersigned Governments undertake to accept the entry into their territory, or the passage in transit through their territory, of the corpses of persons deceased on the territory of any one of the other contracting countries on condition that the following regulations are complied with:

A. General Regulations

ARTICLE 1

For the conveyance of any corpse by any means and under any conditions, a special laissez-passer (laissez-passer for a corpse) complying as far as possible with the model annexed hereto, and in any case stating the surname, first name and age of the deceased person, and the place, date and cause of decease, shall be required; the said laissez-passer shall be issued by the competent authority for the place of decease or the place of burial in the cases of corpses exhumed.

It is recommended that the laissez-passer should be made out, not only in the language of the country issuing it, but also in at least one of the languages most frequently used in international relations.

ARTICLE 2

Neither the country of destination nor the countries of transit shall require, over and above such papers as are required under international conventions for the purpose of transports in general, any document other than the laissez-passer provided for in the preceding Article. The said laissez-passer shall not be issued by the responsible authority, save on presentation of:

  1. A certified true copy of the death certificate;
  2. Official certificates to the effect that conveyance of the corpse is not open to objection from the point of view of health or from the medico-legal point of view, and that the corpse has been placed in a coffin in accordance with the regulations laid down in the present Arrangement.

ARTICLE 3

Corpses must be placed in a metal coffin, the bottom of which has been covered with a layer of approximately 5 cm. of absorbent matter such as peat, sawdust, powdered charcoal or the like with the addition of an antiseptic substance. Where the cause of decease was a contagious disease, the corpse itself shall be wrapped in a shroud soaked in an antiseptic solution.

The metal coffin must thereupon be hermetically closed (soldered) and fitted into a wooden coffin in such a manner as to preclude movement. The wooden coffin shall be of a thickness of not less than 3 cm.: its joints must be completely water-tight: and it must be closed by means of screws not more than 20 cm. distant from one another, and strengthened by metal hoops.

ARTICLE 4

Conveyances of the corpses of persons deceased by reason of plague, cholera, small-pox or typhus shall not be authorised as between the territories of the Contracting Parties until one year at the earliest after the decease.


B. Special Regulations

ARTICLE 5

In the case of transport by rail, the following regulations shall apply over and above the general regulations contained in Articles 1 to 4:

  1. Coffins must be conveyed in a closed wagon, save where they are handed over for conveyance in a closed hearse, and remain in the same.
  2. Each country shall be responsible for fixing the time limit within which the body must be removed on arrival. Where the consignor produces satisfactory proof that the corpse will effectively be removed within such time-limit, the coffin need not be accompanied.
  3. No articles may be transported along with the coffin other than wreaths, bunches of flowers and the like.
  4. Coffins must be despatched by the speediest route and, as far as possible, without trans-shipment.


ARTICLE 6

In the case of motor transport, the following regulations shall apply over and above the general regulations contained in Articles 1 to 4:

  1. Coffins must be conveyed preferably in a special hearse or, failing such, in an ordinary closed van.
  2. No articles may be transported along with the coffin other than wreaths, bunches of flowers and the like.

ARTICLE 7

In the case of transport by air, the following regulations shall apply over and above the general regulations contained in Articles 1 to 4:

  1. Coffins must be conveyed either in an aircraft specially and solely used for the purpose or in a special compartment solely reserved for the purpose in an ordinary aircraft.
  2. No articles may be transported along with the coffin in the same aircraft or in the same compartment, other than wreaths, bunches of flowers and the like.


ARTICLE 8

In the case of transport by sea, the following regulations shall apply over and above the general regulations contained in Articles 1 to 4:

  1. The wooden coffin containing the metal coffin in accordance with the provisions of Article 3 must itself be packed in an ordinary wooden case in such a manner as to preclude movement.
  2. The said case, with its contents, must be so placed as to exclude any contact with foodstuffs or articles for consumption and to preclude inconvenience to the passengers or crew of any kind.


ARTICLE 9

Where decease takes place on board ship, the body must be preserved under the same conditions as those provided for in Article 8 above. The documents and certificates required under Article 2 shall be made out in accordance with the law of the country whose flag the vessel flies, and transport shall take place in the same manner as in the case of a corpse shipped on board.

Where the decease takes place less than 48 hours before the arrival of the vessel in the port at which the burial is to take place, and the material required for the strict observance of the provisions laid down in paragraph (a) of Article 8 is not available on board, the corpse, wrapped in a shroud soaked in an antiseptic solution, may be placed in a coffin of solid wood of planks of not less than 3 cm. thick with watertight joints, closed by screws. The bottom of the coffin must previously have been covered with a layer of approximately 5 cm. of absorbent material such as peat, sawdust, powdered charcoal or the like with the addition of an antiseptic substance. The coffin must thereupon be fitted into a wooden case in such a manner as to preclude movement. The provisions of this paragraph shall not apply where death was due to one of the diseases specified in Article 4.

This Article shall not apply to vessels whose voyages do not exceed 24 hours, if in the event of a decease on board they hand over the corpse to the competent authorities as soon as they arrive at the port at which it is to be handed over.


C. Final Provisions

ARTICLE 10

The provisions, both general and specific, of the present Arrangement embody the maximum requirements (other than in the matter of charges) which may be stipulated in connection with the acceptance of corpses coming from any one of the contracting countries. The said countries remain free to grant greater facilities, either by means of bilateral arrangements or by decisions in particular cases arrived at by common accord.

The present Arrangement shall not apply to the conveyance of corpses between frontier districts.


ARTICLE 11

The present Arrangement applies to international transport of corpses immediately after decease or exhumation. Nothing therein contained shall in any way affect the regulations in force in the respective countries in respect of burial and exhumation.

The present Arrangement shall not apply to the transport of ashes.

D. Protocol Clauses

ARTICLE 12

The present Arrangement shall bear today’s date, and may be signed within six months as from that date.


ARTICLE 13

The present Arrangement shall be ratified, and the instruments of ratification shall be transmitted to the German Government as soon as possible.

As soon as five ratifications have been deposited, the German Government shall draw up a proces-verbal to that effect. It shall transmit copies of the proces-verbal to the Governments of the High Contracting Parties and the Office International d’Hygiene publique. The present Arrangement shall come into force on the 120th day after the date of the said proces-verbal.

Every subsequent deposit of ratifications shall be put on record by means of a proces-verbal drawn up and communicated in accordance with the procedure laid down above. The present Arrangement shall come into force in respect of each of the High Contracting Parties on the 120th day after the date of the proces-verbal putting on record the deposit of its ratifications.

ARTICLE 14

Countries not signatories to the present Arrangement may accede to the same at any time from the date of the proces-verbal putting on record the deposit of the first five ratifications.

Each accession shall be made by means of notification through the diplomatic channel of the German Government. The said Government shall deposit the act of accession in its archives; it shall immediately notify the Governments of all the countries Parties to the Arrangement and the Office International d’Hygiene publique notifying the date of deposit. Each accession shall take effect on the 120th day from that date.

ARTICLE 15

Each of the High Contracting Parties may declare at the time of signature, ratification or accession, that by its acceptance of the present Arrangement it does not intend to undertake any obligation in respect of all or part of its colonies, protectorates, overseas territories or territories placed under its suzerainty or mandate; in which case the present Arrangement shall not apply to territories in respect of which such a declaration has been made.

Each of the High Contracting Parties may later notify the German Government that it intends to make the present Arrangement applicable to all or part of its territories which were the subject of the declaration provided for in the previous paragraph; in which case the Arrangement shall apply to the territories named in the notification on the 120th day from the date of the deposit of the same in the archives of the German Government.

Likewise, every High Contracting Party may at any time after the expiry of the time limit specified in Article 16 declare that it intends that the application of the present Arrangement to all or part of its colonies, protectorates, overseas territories or territories placed under its suzerainty or mandate shall cease; in which case the Arrangement shall cease to apply to the territories which are the subject of such declaration one year after the deposit of the same in the archives of the German Government.

The German Government shall notify the Governments of all the countries Parties to the present Arrangement and the Office International d’Hygiene publique of the notifications and declarations made under the above provision, communicating to them the date of deposit of such notifications or declarations in its archives.

ARTICLE 16

The Government of any country Party to the present Arrangement may, at any time after the Arrangement has been in force in respect of the Government for five years, denounce it by written notification communicated through the diplomatic channel to the German Government. The German Government shall deposit the notice of denunciation in its archives. It shall immediately notify the Governments of all the countries Parties to the Arrangement and the Office International d’Hygiene publique, communicating to them the date of deposit. Every denunciation shall take effect one year after that date.

ARTICLE 17

The signature of the present Arrangement may not be accompanied by any reservation which has not been previously approved by those High Contracting Parties who are already signatories. Likewise, ratifications or accessions accompanied by reservations which have not been previously approved by all countries Parties to the Convention shall not be put on record.

In faith whereof the respective Plenipotentiaries, provided with full powers recognised in good and due form, have signed the present Arrangement.

Done at Berlin on February 10th, 1937, in one single copy which shall remain deposited in the archives of the German Government, and certified true copies of which shall be communicated through the diplomatic channel to each of the High Contracting Parties.

Annex to Appendix A


Laissez-passer for a corpse

All legal regulations concerning the placing in the coffin having been observed, the corpse of .............................................................. ................................................................ (name, first name and profession of the deceased; in the case of children, profession of father and mother) deceased on ............. at ......... , by reason of ....................... (cause of decease), at the age of .............................. years (exact date of birth if possible), is to be conveyed ........................ ....................... (means of transport), from ............................... (place of departure) via .......................... (route), to ....................... (place of destination)


The transport of this corpse having been duly authorized, all and sundry authorities over whose territory the corpse is to be conveyed are requested to let it pass without let or hindrance.

 

Appendix B
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COUNCIL OF EUROPE

AGREEMENT ON THE TRANSFER OF CORPSES
Signed at Strasbourg, October 26th, 1973

The member State of the Council of Europe, signatory hereto,

Considering that there is an increasing need to simplify formalities relating to the international transfer of corpses,

Bearing in mind that the transfer of corpses does not create a risk to health even if death was due to a communicable disease provided that appropriate measures are taken, in particular with regard to the imperviousness of the coffin,

Have agreed as follows:

ARTICLE 1

  1. The Contracting Parties shall apply, as between themselves, the provisions of this Agreement.

  2. For the purpose of this Agreement, transfer of corpses is understood to be the international transport of human remains from the State of departure to the State of destination; the State of departure is that in which the transfer began; in the case of exhumed remains, it is that in which burial had taken place; the State of destination is that in which the corpse is to be buried or cremated after the transport.

  3. This Agreement shall not apply to the international transport of ashes.


ARTICLE 2

  1. The provisions of this Agreement embody the maximum requirements which may be stipulated in connection with the despatch of corpses from, their transit through, or their admission to the territory of a Contracting Party.

  2. The Contracting Parties remain free to grant greater facilities either by means of bilateral agreements or by decisions arrived at by common accord in special cases and in particular in the case of transfer between frontier regions.

For such agreements or decisions to be applicable in any given case, the consent of all the States involved must be obtained.

ARTICLE 3

  1. Any corpse shall, during the transfer, be accompanied by a special document (laissez-passer for a corpse) issued by the competent authority for the State of departure.

  2. The laissez-passer shall include at least the information set out in the model annexed to the present Agreement; it shall be made out in the official language or one of the official languages of the State in which it was issued and in one of the official languages of the Council of Europe.


ARTICLE 4

With the exception of the documents required under international conventions and agreements relating to transport in general, or future conventions or arrangements on the transfer of corpses, neither the State of destination not the transit State shall require any documents other than the laissez-passer for a corpse.


ARTICLE 5

The laissez-passer is issued by the competent authority referred to in Article 8 of this Agreement, after it has ascertained that:

  1. all the medical, health, administrative and legal requirements of the regulations in force in the State of departure relating to the transfer of corpses and, where appropriate, burial and exhumation have been complied with;

  2. the remains have been placed in a coffin which complies with the requirements laid down in Articles 6 and 7 of this Agreement;

  3. the coffin only contains the remains of the person named in the laissez-passer and such personal effects as are to be buried with the corpse.


ARTICLE 6

  1. The coffin must be impervious; the inside must contain absorbent material. If the competent authority of the State of departure consider it necessary the coffin must be provided with a purifying device to balance the internal and external pressures. It may consist of:

    1. either an outer coffin in wood with sides at least 20 mm. thick and an inner coffin of zinc carefully soldered or of any other material which is self destroying;
    2. or a single coffin in wood with sides at least 30 mm. thick lined with a sheet of zinc or of any other material which is self destroying.

  2. If the cause of death is a contagious disease, the body itself shall be wrapped in a shroud impregnated with an antiseptic solution.

  3. Without prejudice to the provisions of paragraphs 1 and 2 of this Article the coffin, if it is to be transferred by air, shall be provided with a purifying device or, failing this, present such guarantees of resistance as are recognised to be adequate by the competent authority of the State of departure.


ARTICLE 7

If the coffin is to be transported like an ordinary consignment, it shall be packaged so that it no longer resembles a coffin, and it shall be indicated that it be handled with care.


ARTICLE 8

Each Contracting Party shall communicate to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe the designation of the competent authority referred to in Article 13, paragraph 1, Article 5 and Article 6, paragraphs 1 and 3 of this Agreement.


ARTICLE 9

If a transfer involves a third State which is Party to the Berlin Arrangement concerning the conveyance of corpses of 10 February 1937, any Contracting State to this Agreement may require another Contracting State to take such measures as are necessary for the former Contracting State to fulfil its obligations under the Berlin Arrangement.


ARTICLE 10

  1. This Agreement shall be open to signature by the member States of the Council of Europe, who may become parties to it either by:

    1. Signature to it without reservation in respect of ratification or acceptance, or
    2. Signature with reservation in respect of ratification or acceptance, followed by ratification or acceptance.

  2. Instruments of ratification or acceptance shall be deposited with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

ARTICLE 11

  1. This Agreement shall enter into force one month after the date on which three member States of the Council shall have become Parties to the Agreement, in accordance with the provisions of Article 10.

  2. As regards any member State who shall subsequently sign the Agreement without reservation in respect of ratification or acceptance or who shall ratify or accept it, the Agreement shall enter into force one month after the date of such signature or after the date of deposit of the instrument of ratification or acceptance.


ARTICLE 12

  1. After the entry into force of this Agreement, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe may invite any non-member State to accede thereto.

  2. Such accession shall be effected by depositing with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe an instrument of accession which shall take effect one month after the date of its deposit.


ARTICLE 13

  1. Any Contracting Party may, at the time of signature or when depositing its instrument of ratification, acceptance or accession, specify the territory or territories to which this Agreement shall apply.

  2. Any Contracting Party may, when depositing its instrument of ratification, acceptance or accession or at any later date, by declaration addressed to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, extend this Agreement to any other territory or territories specified in the declaration and for whose international relations it is responsible or on whose behalf it is authorised to give undertakings.

  3. Any declaration made in pursuance of the preceding paragraph may, in respect of any territory mentioned in such declaration, be withdrawn according to the procedure laid down in article 14 of this Agreement.


ARTICLE 14

  1. This Agreement shall remain in force indefinitely.

  2. Any Contracting Party may, insofar as it is concerned denounce this Agreement by means of a notification a addressed to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

  3. Such denunciation shall take effect six months after the date of receipt by the Secretary General of such notification.

ARTICLE 15

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe shall notify the member States of the Council and any State which has acceded to this Agreement of:

  1. any signature without reservation in respect of ratification or acceptance;
  2. any signature with reservation in respect of ratification or acceptance;
  3. the deposit of any instrument of ratification, acceptance or accession;
  4. any date of entry into force of this Agreement, in accordance with Article 11 thereof;
  5. any declaration received in pursuance of the provisions of paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 13
  6. any notification received in pursuance of the provisions of Article 14 and the date on which the denunciation takes effect;
  7. any communications made to him under Article 8.

In witness whereof the undersigned, being duly authorised thereto, have signed this Agreement.

Done at Strasbourg, this 26th day of October 1973, in the English and French languages, both texts being equally authoritative, in a single copy which shall remain deposited in the archives of the Council of Europe. The Secretary General of the Council of Europe shall transmit certified copies to each of the signatory and acceding State


Annex to Appendix B
Laissez-passer for a corpse

This laissez-passer is issued in accordance with the Agreement on the Transfer of Corpses, in particular Articles 3 and 5 (1).
Authority is hereby given for the removal of the body of:
Name and first name of the deceased ...................................... ......................................................................................... died on .................................. at .......................................

State cause of death (if possible) (2) and (3) ............................
.................................................................................. at the age of ............................. years ............................... Date and place of birth (if possible) ......................................... The body is to be conveyed .................................... (means of transport) from ................................ (place of departure) via ............................... (route) to ............................. (destination)

The transport of this corpse having been duly authorised, all and sundry authorities of the States over whose territory the corpse is to be conveyed are requested to let it pass without let or hindrance.

Done at ....................... on ............................
Signature of the competent authority Official stamp of the competent authority

 

  1. The text of Articles 3 and 5 of the Agreement is to appear on the reverse side of the laissez-passer

  2. The cause of death should be stated in English or French or in the numerical WHO code of the international classification of diseases.

  3. If cause of death is not stated for reasons of professional secrecy then a certificate indicating the cause of death should be placed in a sealed envelope accompanying the corpse during transport and be presented to the competent authority in the State of destination. The sealed envelope, which shall bear some external indication for identification purposes, shall be securely attached to the laissez-passer.

Alternatively, an indication should be made on the laissez-passer as to whether the person died of natural causes and of a non-contagious disease.

If this is not the case, the circumstances of death or the nature of the contagious disease should be indicated.

 

Appendix C
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PAN AMERICAN
WORLD HEALTH
HEALTH ORGANISATION
ORGANISATION

 

XVII PAN AMERICAN SANITARY CONFERENCE
XVIII REGIONAL COMMITTEE MEETING

RESOLUTION XXIX

Adopted in Washington, October 7th, 1966

INTERNATIONAL TRANSPORTATION OF HUMAN REMAINS


THE XVII PAN AMERICAN SANITARY CONFERENCE....

Resolves

  1. To approve and transmit to the Governments of the Organization the following Declaration and Regulations concerning the International Transportation of Human Remains:


DECLARATION

The greater ease of communications today and the considerable increase in tourism make the international transportation of human remains a matter of practical interest that justifies the establishment of uniform standards.

The international transportation of human remains should be simplified so as not to increase the problems of the families with complicated and unnecessary procedures that appear to overlook the moral and social considerations involved in such cases.

It is possible to simplify the administrative procedures involved in obtaining authorization for the international transportation of human remains if it is borne in mind that, contrary to a deep rooted opinion, a corpse does not constitute a health risk even when death was due to a quarantinable or communicable disease, since its power to infect disappears when it is suitably embalmed.

Embalming might become the general practice in the countries of the Americas since it is the most appropriate method of preserving human remains; however, this in no way implies that other, simpler, and equally effective methods, cannot also be used.

DEFINITIONS

Article 1. International transportation of human remains is understood to be the shipment of the body from the country where the death occurred to the country of its final destination after either death or disinterment.

Article 2. The transportation of bodies between frontier districts within 48 hours after death shall not be subject to these standards.

Article 3. For the purpose of these standards an impervious coffin shall be any container or box, of whatever material, which can be hermetically sealed and so maintained by plastic or rubber gasket or by metal or similar material which has been soldered or welded. The body may also be encased in a plastic container which has been sealed by heat or by adhesive materials prior to being placed in a non-impervious coffin, and which, for the purpose of these standards, will be considered the same as an impervious coffin.


DOCUMENTATION

Article 4. For international transportation of human remains, the following documents shall be required:

  1. An official certificate of cause of death issued by the local registrar of death, or similar authority;

  2. A statement by the person authorized to prepare the remains, certified by an appropriate authority, indicating the manner and method in which the body was prepared and indicating that the coffin contains only the body in question and necessary clothing and packing;

  3. A transit permit stating the surname, first name and age of the deceased person, issued by the competent authority for the place of death, or the place of burial in the case of exhumed human remains, and;

  4. Copies of the documentation required under subparagraphs a, b, and c shall accompany the shipment of remains. The outside of the coffin should bear an immovable plaque or other appropriate marking, in a conspicuous place, indicating name, age and place of final destination of the body.
 

HEALTH MEASURES

Article 5. The human remains shall be subject to the following measures:

  1. Thorough washing with an effective disinfectant; disinfection of all orifices; packing of all orifices with cotton saturated with an effective disinfectant; wrapping in a sheet saturated with an effective disinfectant; and placing in an impervious coffin; or,

  2. Proper embalming (arterial and cavity) and placement in an impervious coffin; or,

  3. Proper embalming (arterial and cavity) and encasement in a plastic container which has been sealed by heat or by adhesive materials prior to placement in a non-impervious coffin.

SHIPMENT REQUIREMENTS

Article 6. Human remains prepared for international shipment must be placed in an impervious coffin. Where the cause of death was a quarantinable disease, as defined in the International Sanitary Regulations, the human remains must be embalmed (arterial and cavity) and placed in an impervious coffin.

The impervious coffin must thereupon be hermetically sealed and may be shipped without any other covering (except in the case of shipment by sea), or for protective purposes may be fitted in a wooden box, or one made of other material, so as to prevent movement; or may be wrapped in a specially designed fabric.


TRANSPORTATION BY LAND, AIR OR SEA

Article 7. The following regulations shall apply to the transportation by rail:

  1. The impervious coffin may be transported in the baggage compartment of a passenger car.

  2. Each country shall be responsible for fixing the time limit within which the body must be removed at its final destination.
 

In case of transportation by road the impervious coffin must be conveyed preferably in a closed hearse or failing such, in an ordinary closed van (truck) or automobile, placed in such a way as to prevent movement.

The impervious coffin may be conveyed also in the baggage compartment of a passenger aircraft or in a cargo aircraft and may be equipped with a vent or safety valve provided that precautions are taken to prevent the escape of liquids or nauseous gases.

In case of transportation by sea the impervious coffin, in order to preclude movement, must be packed in an ordinary wooden case, or one made of other material, or may be placed in specially designed fabric container.


COMMON PROVISION

Article 8. Regardless of the mode of transportation, wreaths, flowers and other similar funeral articles may be sent with the coffin only when it is permitted by the provisions in force in the country to which it is being sent.

FINAL PROVISIONS

Article 9. The above formalities may be reduced either through bilateral arrangements or by joint decision in particular cases.

Article 10. The transportation of remains exhumed after the period established in the local provisions in force have elapsed, and the transportation of ashes, shall not be subject to health or other special measures.

  1. To recommend to the Governments that they apply the above mentioned regulations in the way they deem most appropriate.

  2. To invite the Governments to inform the Bureau of the steps taken to implement the above mentioned regulations so that he may report them to the other Governments and to the Governing Bodies of the Organization.

  3. To urge the Director that he endeavour to ensure in the way he deems the most appropriate that the Governments of the Organization take appropriate measures to implement in their territories the regulations on International Transportation of Human Remains mentioned in the first operative paragraph of this resolution.

  4. To recommend to the Director that he transmit this resolution to the Director-General of the World Health Organization.

 

Appendix D
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INTERPOL RESOLUTION

DISASTER VICTIM IDENTIFICATION

          BEARING IN MIND, firstly, that a Working Party was set up to draft a Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) Form (49th General Assembly session, Manila, 1980) and secondly that, in view of the increasing importance of the subject, a Sub-Committee composed of police officers, forensic pathologists and forensic odontologists was established in 1986;

          NOTING THAT the said Sub-Committee has now finalised a modified and computerised version of the DVI Form and a modified version of its associated DVI Guide (previously DVI Manual), which should prove entirely satisfactory and which have been adopted by the Working Party, now being recognised as the Interpol Standing Committee on DVI;

          RECOGNISING the basic human right of individuals to be properly identified after death and that the identification of disaster victims continues to be of increasing international importance with regard to police investigations, in addition to other legal, religious and cultural requirements;

          The ICPO-Interpol General Assembly, meeting in Antalya from 23rd October 1996 to 29th October 1996, at its 65th session:

          ADOPTS the said Form and its associated Guide;

          RECOMMENDS THAT all the Organisations member countries use the Disaster Victim Identification Form in all appropriate circumstances including cases in which there is only one victim to be identified;

          AUTHORISES the Secretary General to adapt the DVI Form and the associated Guide whenever appropriate, pursuant to technical developments and/or other professional needs in the field;

          DECIDES THAT the Working Party on DVI, now recognised as, and in the future to be named 'The Interpol Standing Committee on Disaster Victim Identification', shall;

  1. Comprise representative police officers, forensic pathologists and forensic odontologists, and may, from time to time co-opt specialists from other organisations as appropriate (e.g. U.N. Department of Humanitarian Affairs, airline operators, forensic science services).

  2. Consider relevant previous incidents, identifying technical developments and experience from which improvements to procedures and standards in DVI matters, including documentation, technology, computerisation, education and training may be made.

  3. Ensure that the DVI Forms and Guide to DVI Procedures are maintained so as to provide the best possible practical assistance and advice to member countries.

  4. Make recommendations to enhance co-operation, liaison, information exchange and practical assistance between member countries and with other relevant national and international agencies and organisations when planning for, or responding to, disasters.

  5. Meet regularly to achieve these aims and disseminate advice and recommendations on good practice promptly to member countries.


          RECOMMENDS that member countries;

  1. Establish a Disaster Victim Identification Team comprising suitable police officers, forensic pathologists and forensic odontologists, or, as a minimum, appoint an officer responsible for Disaster Victim Identification matters, such teams or officers being the central contact point in their own countries when their citizens are involved in a disaster, or when otherwise requested to assist another member country.

  2. Regularly advise each other and the General Secretariat of DVI experiences and lesson learnt from incidents.

  3. When appropriate seek the assistance, as participants or observers, of DVI Liaison Officers and/or Teams from countries whose citizens are victims of the disaster.

  4. Upon request from a member country, provide such DVI assistance as may be necessary, to that member country.

  5. Provide the General Secretariat with relevant details of DVI Teams established in their country.

  6. Co-operate closely so that decisions about the admission of foreign DVI Teams/Officers can be taken rapidly.


          REQUEST the Secretary General to:

  1. Publish and make available to member countries the DVI Form and the associated Guide to DVI procedures in the established Interpol languages.

  2. Maintain and circulate a list of DVI Teams/Officers in member countries.

  3. Periodically publish information on disasters, in particular, identification matters.

  4. Bring to the attention of the Standing Committee any information supplied by member countries.

  5. Maintain a list of DVI training courses in different countries and the potential for participation by foreign trainees.


          ABROGATES the following resolutions:

  1. AN/37/RES/4 (1968) Disaster Victim Identification Form
  2. AGN/49/RES/2 (1980) Identification of Disaster Victims
  3. AGN/50/RES/3 (1981) Victim Identification Form
  4. AGN/51/RES/7 (1982) International Assistance in the Identification of Disaster Victims
  5. AGN/55/RES/14 (1986) Identification of Disaster Victims
  6. AGN/58/RES/10 (1989) Disaster Victim Identification Form.

 

Appendix E
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Draft Interpol Guidelines

Introduction

One of the most important considerations in the aftermath of a disaster is the relationship between bereaved families and the Police.

The term disaster in this context should be taken as any incident involving a large amount of casualties and where a Disaster Victim Identification Co-ordinator has been appointed.

These guidelines will not distinguish between types of incidents that may require a DVI approach but will offer generic advice on Family Liaison in the immediate aftermath, which is intended to make sure that families are treated appropriately, with respect and according to their diverse needs.

The hours and days following a disaster tend to be very intense and confusing for all concerned. None more so than the families of the missing who are desperately in need of information.

Having reported their loved one missing it would be positively good practice to appoint a Family Liaison Officer to the family.

The benefits of having this dedicated point of contact would be:

  • To ensure the gathering of ante mortem information without delay.

  • The urgent and accurate completion of Interpol DVI forms.

  • That the gathering of any physical exhibits which could aid identification are gathered in an appropriate manner which would stand up to forensic scrutiny at home and abroad.

  • That all relevant statements are taken from the family with regards lifestyle and history.

  • That at all times the family are furnished with timely, accurate and honest information about the investigation/recovery operation.

  • That FLOs will attempt to safely navigate the family through the workings of the Justice System in order to prevent re-victimisation.

  • That all requests by families to view their loved ones should be arranged by the FLO where practicable.

  • Visits to the scene.

  • Information regarding support agencies is supplied to families.

  • All dealings with the family should be recorded in the Family liaison Log copies of which should be retained by the Investigation Team. This will ensure that there is no duplication of requests made to the family, which could affect the family's confidence in the procedure.

  • Families should be consulted about any Police Media Strategy, which will generate interest in them as a family.

 

INTERPOL DVI FAMILY LIAISON STRATEGY

Strategic Aim

To ensure the most effective investigation possible into the death of an individual in a mass fatality incident, by the immediate implementation of a Family Liaison Strategy, which will include the deployment of a trained Police Investigator to every family, believed to have lost a relative in the incident.


Key Elements:

Victim Identification
This will facilitate the rapid and accurate identification of Disaster Victims and human remains by timely collection and collation of Ante Mortem information.

Investigation
By providing an investigative framework, which will facilitate the two way documented flow of information between the DVI Commander and the family and the identification of critical intelligence which will support the overall investigation, this will include all relevant information to the family about the judicial process.

Community Reassurance
By agreeing a joint media strategy with the family which will encourage witnesses to come forward whilst giving public and community reassurance in the investigative process.

Support from other agencies
Ensuring that families have access to information, which will enable them to make informed decisions around the support/assistance that can be obtained from other appropriate organisations.


What is a Family:

The identification of what makes up an individual's family is extremely important to the delivery of the Family Liaison Function.

In law enforcement terms it is important to recognise the potentially wide variations of the 'family' which can be influenced by culture, lifestyle and just by preference.

In the context of this document the term family should include,

Partners
Parents
Siblings
Children
Guardians
And others who have had a direct and close relationship with the victim.

Particular care should be taken to establish the wishes of the family at all times with sensitivity and understanding exercised around families with diverse lifestyles.

Assumptions about the identification of a family should never be made and the DVI Commander should try at all times to respond to the wishes of surviving family member(s).

The Main Roles identified for the effective delivery of a Family Liaison Strategy:


DVI Commander

The DVI Commander will be responsible for the overall strategy relating to recovery, identification and repatriation issues. Family Liaison will fall within this strategy and as such will require a distinct strategy of its own which will serve to complement and enhance the overall effort.

The strategy should seek to address staffing levels, clear chains of command and an agreed disclosure policy in order that only approved information is given to families.

The Key Objectives of the Family Liaison strategy should be:

  1. Providing the family with as full and up to date information as possible about the incident and its investigation.

  2. Obtaining full family background and other relevant details as directed by the DVI Commander.

The level of disclosure to families should be as high as possible as at this time they will be in desperate need for information and it is important that the Police can identify themselves as the primary and most reliable source.

Efforts to do this will be appreciated by families and will help maintain their confidence in the Police Operation.

The DVI Commander should appoint a Family Liaison Co-ordinator(s) to manage the Family Liaison Officers both roles will be covered in this document.


Family Liaison Co-ordinator

DVI Commanders should consider appointing a supervisor to co-ordinate the work of the Family Liaison Officers.

The role of the FLC will be to:

  • Facilitate the delivery of the Family Liaison Strategy through acting as a tactical advisor to the FLOs.

  • Act as a channel for welfare support.

  • Liase Nationally and Internationally to share and gather good practice, which may assist.

  • Monitor the workloads of FLOs to avoid burnout.

  • Ensure that there is no duplication of effort, which would impact on resources and families.

  • Make that any necessary equipment such a vehicles and telephones are made available to FLOs.

  • Liase with other appropriate agencies in order to assist the exit of Police FLOs at the relevant time with a seamless and efficient handover.

  • Act as a quality assurance point for FLO work thereby ensuring that the DVI Commander receives timely and accurate updates from the family contact.

  • Ensure that all relevant paperwork from the FLOs is completed and submitted in a timely and efficient manner.

  • Support and advise the DVI Commander on issues relating to the delivery of Family Liaison.


Family Liaison Officer

The role of the FLO involves the day to day management of the relationship with the family in the investigation and close liaison with the co-ordinator and the DVI Commander to ensure that families are treated appropriately, professionally and in accordance with their diverse needs.

It may involve working in a variety of situations in very demanding and stressful conditions over sustained periods of time.

It is essential that the FLOs are selected from volunteers who have the appropriate skills and qualities.

All FLOs should already be trained to a standard of DVI awareness that would allow them to have a full understanding of the ongoing operation. This is extremely important, as they will need to explain these processes to a bereaved family.

They should also be able to explain the roles of the other key practitioners.

The primary role of the FLO will be that of an investigator. In performing that role the FLO should be mindful of the boundaries that exist between offering professional and practical support as opposed to offering personal and emotional support.

These are areas that the family should seek the support of other identified appropriate agencies. The FLO may be able to assist in the identification of such agencies.

The provision of an advice pack at the outset would be advantageous to the FLO and would answer many of the questions the family may need answered over a period of time.

The Co-ordinator should be able to assist in this process by doing much of this research in the background whilst allowing the FLO to get on with the important task of gathering Ante Mortem information.


Operating Protocols

Selection of people to act as FLOs

It is essential that the FLOs are primarily if not exclusively dedicated to the task. To perform the function effectively they must be an integral part of the DVI Team.

Consideration should be given to the deployment of a deputy FLO. Such a deployment has benefits for the family and the investigation in that it provides for greater resilience in the liaison function at times when the principal FLO is unavailable due to sickness, leave, court commitments etc.

In considering the deployment of the FLOs the DVI Commander should take account of the FLOs ability to perform that role effectively at that time.

The following circumstances will have a bearing on the selection process:

  • A recent bereavement of a close relative or partner or other major life trauma

  • Frequency of recent deployment in the role.

  • Existing workload.

  • Availability - leave, court commitments etc

  • Previous experience in the role.

On occasions, gender may be a critical factor for cultural reasons.

Where the victim's family are from a minority group or particular lifestyle diversity, consideration should be given to the deployment of an FLO with particular knowledge and experience of that community.

In the event of a terrorist incident, or other similarly motivated attack where one or more minority communities have been affected advice should be sought from community advocates when writing a Family Liaison Strategy in order that it reflects the needs of those communities at that time.


Training Required

At the end of any course designed for the training of FLOs the students should be able to:

  • Identify the main responsibilities of the FLO in relation to the overall Police response.

  • Outline the responsibilities of the FLO in relation to the management of Ante Mortem information.

  • Outline the command structure in a DVI Incident.

  • Explain the relationship between the Family Liaison Strategy and the overall strategy as set out by the DVI Commander.

  • Identify the main responsibilities of the Family Liaison Co-ordinator in DVI Incidents.

  • Outline the potential issues in relation to ethnicity, culture and lifestyle diversity when dealing with a bereaved family. E.g. Death rites, funerals etc.

  • Outline the processes that are usually involved with grieving and the effect that an enquiry may have on this.

  • Outline the role of Coroner or other judicial inquest within the context of any particular incident.

  • Explain the methods that may be used to identify a victim after a disaster.

  • Outline issues relating to releasing bodies and post mortems.

  • Explain the importance of collecting forensic samples correctly.

  • Identify the issues that should be considered in relation to the return of property.

  • Outline the importance of accurate record keeping in their dealings with a family.

  • Outline the effect that media coverage could have on a bereaved family.

  • Formulate a strategy that will enable them to exit from the family at the appropriate time.

  • Recognise the circumstances when specialist intervention may be required.

  • Identify tactical options for dealing with unexpected developments.

  • Identify the assistance that might be given by the relevant support agencies that are available to a family during and after an enquiry.


Risk Assessment

As with any deployment, the Family Liaison function needs to be included on its own in any generic risk assessment.

This should be reviewed on a regular basis with particular attention being paid to when the circumstances of the liaison change in respect of:

  1. People:

    Have the family group changed in structure. Have other 'family members' started to act as spokesperson for the family.
    There is always potential for media intrusion inside a family.
    Care must be taken to make sure that information is only given to the right people.

  2. Action/Activity:

    During the deployment the activities of the FLO with the family may change. This can be due to new information, media intrusion or just developments in the investigation.
    It should be ensured at all times that any new activities not previously undertaken by the FLO are subject to the same risk assessment.

  3. Location:

    If the Family Liaison function is to take place at a location that has not previously been risk assessed this should be conducted immediately.
    Every effort should be taken to establish as much information about any premises and it's occupants.
    The risk assessment should take into account any community tension that may exist in that location.

  4. Environment:

    The address where the liaison is taking place may be viewed for at least part of the liaison function as the workplace of the FLO.
    It is therefore crucial that the environment is not detrimental to their health.
    This would obviously be affected if anyone at the address was suffering from a contagious disease or if the home contained any hazardous substances.
    On a more subtle level however this could also include any changes to dynamics within the family and between the Police and the family, which could make working within the family home a more risky environment.

Much of this assessment work can be carried out by the FLO themselves as they go about their business but it is the duty of the FLO Co-ordinator and the DVI Commander to ensure that they are regularly reviewed as part of the overall management and supervision function.

It should also be emphasised that the 'risk' that is referred to is not meant as that which applies only to the individual FLO but to any risk that has been identified by means of the Family Liaison function that could cause potential harm to the confidence of the family and the broader community in the overall Police response.


Communication with the family

It is extremely important that the appointed Family Liaison Officer(s) become the primary point of contact with the family.

The needs of the investigation have to be balanced against the needs of the bereaved. Previous experience has shown that one of the most difficult things that families have had to endure after a disaster has been the constant requests for information from them from many different sources.

There may be a limit to which the Police can resolve this with other agencies but we can at least make sure that there are no duplication of requests to families from the Police by making sure that any requests of the family are fed through the FLO and marked up according to their priority.

This way the FLO can make sure that long periods of time are not spent on issues that can be resolved later.

The role of the FLO Co-ordinator can be influential in achieving this aim by prioritising requests to the FLO.

There may be times throughout the investigation when the families request a meeting with the DVI Commander. In the event of mass fatalities the DVI Commander may be unable to see families individually, therefore it may be advantageous for the DVIC to bring the families together to be given periodic briefings, which can be arranged by the FLOs in order to meet the needs of all parties.


Record Keeping

All communication with the family whether by telephone or in person must be recorded in a way that can be reproduced later for supervision and examination.

It is recommended that an FLO create a log of communications with the family which can show at a glance the history of the Police/Family relationship.

Any requests made by the family or concerns that have been raised should be recorded and brought to the attention of the Co-ordinator as soon as possible.

If for any reason the Police cannot resolve the families concerns then a full explanation should be given to the family as to why and this must be subsequently recorded in the Family Liaison Officers log.

Copies of the FLO log should be handed to the FLO Co-ordinator in order that they can be submitted to the investigation and that any other actions arising from that interaction can be raised.

A separate FLO log must be completed for each family. These should be retained by the FLO during the investigation and handed in at the end.


Family and the Media

The media will always have a major part to play in the aftermath of a mass fatality incident.

The 24hr media coverage that is available now has ensured that images from the scene of a disaster can be in people's homes within minutes of it happening.

The DVI Commander will have to balance the need to use the media to generate information and intelligence with the need to protect the family from unwarranted media intrusion.

It is important therefore that any media strategy that is generated by the Police has been discussed in advance with the family.

This will include the release of photographs, which may have been given to Police by the family.

Video records showing family members should also be shown to the family first and the evidential value of releasing them to the media explained to the family.

Having a dedicated Media Officer will help take this pressure off the DVI Commander and could also assist the FLO with briefings to the family about developing issues likely to appear in the press.

The FLO on behalf of the DVI Commander should discourage the family from having an independent media strategy emphasising the need for a jointly agreed strategy.

It is the responsibility of the FLO to keep the DVI Commander aware of any issues arising within the family that could cause adverse media attention.


Family Assistance Centres

In the event of a large scale disaster where the families end up making their way to the area, it may be advisable to consider setting up a central resource centre.

This would assist Police and families alike by having a focal point where relatives could attend for information and aid.

In the short term this could help to maximise the Family Liaison effort by having FLO resources available to capture all the ante mortem information as well as forensic samples in the immediate aftermath.

By its very nature this type of resource would need the involvement of other agencies. However it would allow families to make informed choices about what their immediate needs were.

Trips to the scene could be organised in such a way that they did not interfere with any rescue or recovery work that was going on.

Also it would minimise the risk of relatives just turning up unaccompanied at the scene which can be harrowing and disruptive to DVI Teams working there.

Suitable premises would have to be identified that were not too near the scene but had sufficient effective transport links.

A more in depth plan of such a resource can be made available if required.


Exit Strategies

The primary role of the Police FLO is that of investigator.

Therefore it is necessary for all the key practitioners in the delivery of a Family Liaison Strategy to recognise when that role is finished.

The FLO Co-ordinator and the DVI Commander should have no problem in identifying when this happens.

However the FLO can sometimes if not supervised appropriately become over involved with a bereaved family.

That is why the role of the FLO needs to be explained thoroughly to the family at the outset.

The FLO should keep the family updated in order that the family are aware that contact will eventually end.

The FLO Co-ordinator must be checking regularly that the exit strategy is being implemented.

Failure to do this may encourage the family to become over dependant on the Police when their actual needs can now be met better by other non-police agencies.

It is also important that the FLO is allowed for their own benefit to step away from the family at the end of the investigation.

A well managed, well supervised FLO Team should not necessarily suffer any ill effects from conducting their role. However it is essential that they be given the same access as other practitioners performing key roles as regards debriefing.

Debriefing of officers must be mandatory at the end of an incident.

This will help maintain their welfare and also draw out any operational issues that may need to be reviewed prior to any subsequent deployment.

It will also help to ensure that learning takes place within the organisation every time we deal with a disaster.


Summary

The provision of Police Family Liaison following a disaster is essential in effectively managing the two-way flow of information.

It allows for more effective media handling

Faster more reliable identification and repatriation

Better inter-agency co-operation to benefit of families

Family/Community/Media confidence in the work of the Police


Family Liaison Advisor

In order to ensure quality support to member countries, in the early days of implementation, it is recommended that Interpol Headquarters Lyon maintain a database of those with recognised expertise in this area.

The database would enable access to up to date experience in this field, which may assist member countries.

Any Family Liaison Co-ordinator could therefore be able to seek advice or share recent experience with other similar practitioners.

This could enhance the role of Interpol in providing International assistance whilst providing member countries with an extra resource following a mass disaster.

This could also however feed into the Interpol Secure Website, which could maintain a library of resource material.

As we increasingly live in a multi cultural society the benefit of being able to share our combined knowledge with each other to the benefit of our citizens could certainly assist in a unique and dynamic way.

Every disaster impacts upon families, every disaster impacts upon communities.

It is indiscriminate in who it affects.

Managing the diverse nature of the challenges before us will be greatly enhanced by working together.

 

Disaster Victim Identification
International Co-operation DVI Guide Bibliography

 

Last modified on 1 Feb 2005 
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